Updated report on the impact of persuasive design in the digital environment on children’s wellbeing

Date: 25th April 2023
Category: Special protection measures

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Five years on from 5Rights’ initial report on the impact of persuasive design in the digital environment on children, there have been many regulatory and legislative advances in the tech industry yet no change in the exploitative nature of the relationship between tech and children. In this updated report, persuasive design features used in new products such as TikTok and BeReal, are examined in relation to their impact on childhood.

While the digital world has opened up many new opportunities for children to learn and socialise, the report explores the detrimental impacts digital persuasion can have on children’s mental health, behaviours, relationships and identity development. Children continue to be vulnerable to digital platforms that are not designed with their needs or rights in mind. Despite new regulatory codes being introduced in the UK such as the Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC) and the pending Online Safety Bill, as well as developments in the United States and Europe, 5Rights worries that no more than the language in the policy discourse will change rather than what needs to happen; the best interests of the child prioritised over commercial interests.

 “The current asymmetry of power between the developing child and the most powerful companies in the world is not in the ‘best interests’ of the child. 5Rights Foundation wishes to see a global effort to set the ethics, governance and legal boundaries for the global technology companies and those that use technology to engage with children.”(5Rights Foundation)